What is language? An objective description is hard because we use language to describe language…so what is it? This class will study language in order to draw some conclusions about what, how and why language means. Language could be called a system of vocal signs through which humans communicate, as it has rules and patterns…
What is language? Language is not finite, it is open ended and creative…we are constantly creating new words and sentences. Duality of Patterning: The ability of language to create distinctions through its differences. Phoneme/Morpheme Prescriptive/Descriptive Grammar
Language is intentional We use it purposefully in order to communicate facts, ideas or emotions. We have many ways to communicate… gestures are often used to accentuate words…but are all gestures intentional?
Language is intentional Language is used in very interesting ways quite early in a child’s development. Children not only make sounds when they are young, they communicate something about the world around them. Theory of Mind: We have the ability to understand that we are thinking beings whose thoughts and ideas may or may not be the same as others.
Language is intentional Many believe we are born with this ability, but how do we judge where intent began regarding this unique human ability? When did gestures no longer suffice?
Language is inherent Language is a part of what it means to be human. Darwin: While language needs to be learned, the desire to speak is not learned. Skinner: We acquire language through empirically interacting with the environment. Chomsky: Humans are born with a Universal Grammar or language creating facility…
However…. How do we separate inborn abilities from those which are learned? What role does culture play in the development of language?
Stephen Pinker says… Language is not a cultural artifact we learn, but a distinct piece of the biological makeup of our brains, which develops in a child spontaneously. It is instinctual and unique to the human species.
The emergentist perspective Language ability is not innate, but the result of rapid human learning and adaptation to the world around them leading to the various capabilities of the brain to work together and allow speaking and communication. We learn and create through language as a social act.
Saussure Language and thought cannot be easily separated… It is a combination of langue(the abstract system of signs and rules which make up language) and parole(language in practice, words sentences and phrases as they are actually used) Which comes first, thought or language? Can we think without language? Can we think in images?
Language and Culture The interactive activities humans engage in and teach, whether explicitly or by example, make up a cultural heritage. Culture is a system of meaning for a group of people… Culture allows humans to organize their social lives…
Language and Culture Language is what allows humans to socialize. High Culture… Is culture a set of social rules we must obey, such as grammar…or is it more dynamic and reactive, a bricolage? The boundaries of culture have blurred.
Language and culture Cultural relativism… Understanding culture can guard against racism All elements of our culture are learned and arbitrary. No single culture is right or wrong…simply different. Can be complex due to differences… Cultures should only be questioned when truly trying to understand its context.
Language and culture How do we define culture?
Language and culture How do you describe a culture? How would you describe your culture? One must be wary of stereotypes and generalizations… Try explaining a sport to someone who has no idea about it…
Language and culture Celebrating a culture does not necessarily lead to a critical understanding of it. We must consider the power of culture over the individual and the ways we express our individual differences. A single identity can include a hybrid of cultures. With language, the cultural context of the producer as well as the audience is crucial.
Language and culture When reading texts from another culture, it is easy to relegate the unknown to something irreconcilable with our own beliefs…The Kite Runner… A more critical approach is to attempt understanding while acknowledging difference.